Streets and lanes in downtown Rawalpindi are lined with tandoors serving crisp, golden bakarkhanis in the morning.
The round, sweet flatbread is popular with the city’s residents for breakfast, with some even serving it with their afternoon tea.
A bakarkhani is a thick, round, bread toasted in a tandoor till it is golden brown.
It is made by kneading fine wheat flour with oil and salt, and sometimes milk as well. The dough is then covered for two hours to let it rise before it is flattened on a baking board and brushed with oil. It is stretched, folded and brushed with oil a few times before being portioned into small balls and flattened into a biscuit.
The bread is toasted in a tandoor till it is flaky on the inside and a crisp golden on the outside.
There are many variants of the bread, with some bakeries and tandoors adding just a little spice to the dough and others garnishing it with sesame seeds. The flatbread is served by placing small pieces of it in a bowl and pouring hot milk or tea over it.
Bakarkhanis can be found in all small tandoors and bakeries in the streets of Raja Bazaar, Purana Qila, Bhabara Bazaar, Saidpuri Gate, Banni, Kartarpura and Kashmiri Bazaar.
Bakers in these bazaars believe the bread was popular with Mughal rulers as well and that it was favoured as a breakfast food well before the partition. They say the Mughals brought with them a variety of bread including sheermal, naan, kulchas and bakarkhanis.
Ijaz Butt, the owner of a tandoor on College Road well known for its bakarkhanis, said that though the bread can be stored for a week, he had to make fresh batches every morning and in the winter months, well in to the night because of the demand. He said the bread was a light substitute for Roghni naans and parathas.
The owner of another shop in Kashmiri Bazaar, Mohammad Aslam, said the bread was popular for serving in large gatherings. Demand for bakarkhanis, he said, increases in Muharram and Ramazan.
Kamran Butt, a resident of Arya Mohallah, said he loved having bakarkhanis with milk in the mornings and said eating the bread for breakfast tasted better than having oats.
Having bakarkhanis does not make him feel guilty for breaking his diet, Mr Butt said, adding that wheat and milk are healthier than junk food.
Another bakarkhani fan, Mohammad Hassan, suggested eating the bread with salted Kashmiri tea, saying it adds more to its taste than sweet milk.
“I would go to tandoors to see how they make the bread because I wanted to learn to make it for myself. And even though I make good bakarkhanis myself now, the ones from Sarafa bazaar are still my favourite,” said Ashar Ali of Westridge.
Published in Dawn, February 1st, 2016